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- Al -

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Now, just maybe you've read that title and you are wondering to yourself "What in the world is he talking about?" What this tutorial is all about is how to use two fairly common programs that can help you recover your system regardless of almost any hazard. The two programs are Norton Ghost and Power Quest's Drive Image. There may be other programs out there that do what these programs do, but these are by far the most well-known and popular.

What is an Image?

For the purpose we are discussing here, an image is an exact replica of your partition or hard drive retained in a special compressed format. Ghost and Drive Image each use their own special format, and until recently, both programs required you to restore all or nothing if you needed to. By making an image in one of these formats, you have the opportunity if necessary to restore your system to EXACTLY the same condition it was when you made the image, and in much less time than any backup program can do it. In addition, these programs are capable of making exact copies of a hard drive or an individual partition. This is just about the best way to "clone" an installation, or to move to a new hard drive.

Uses for Imaging

Before we dig into the specifics of using these two programs, let's talk about what you might use them for. Here are a few things I use Ghost for:

  1. To create full image backups at various stages of a clean install. This way, if anything is not quite right, I can simply restore to the image prior to the problem, instead of starting my clean install all over.
  2. Regular images of the system when it is working correctly. I do these about once a month and burn them to CD. If all goes down the tubes, I can restore from the suitable set of CDs. The newest versions of both Ghost and Drive Image allow imaging directly to supported burners.
  3. An image before installing Beta software or other questionable software. This I do to the hard drive, and if it turns out that the software in question causes me problems, restore the image and forget about it.
  4. Cloning installations when identical installations are desired. As it happens, I administer a network in which 4 machines are configured exactly the same way, another 2 are identical to each other, and 2 more have the same basic configuration with a bit more software added to one. Three Ghost images let me handle all of these systems very quickly and easily, with the only additional installations having to be made on one machine, and changes to the names in Network Neighborhood Properties.
  5. Ghost also has the possibility (in the appropriate version and license) of cloning NT setups, including creating the unique identifiers necessary.

There are more uses for these programs, but these are the ones I use the most. Also, when I build a machine for someone, I create an image of their C: drive which I place in another partition. Believe me, that is a BIG rescue net.

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